To stock up or not to stock up?

Christian friends are wondering what to do about the current food scarcity. In many countries around the world, most of them actually, food is an issue. “Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.” (source) That is an amazing fact. If you are like me and live in America, and have been privileged to live in wealth all your life, that fact is hard to comprehend. “But I’m not rich!” you might protest. Maybe you have been out of work for 32 weeks and are on the verge of losing your house. Well, you HAVE a house. Maybe you have already lost your house. Well, unless you are living under the RR tracks and reading this at the library, you are rich. If you have some sort of shelter, occasional food, and clothes, you are rich- comparatively. (Image no. ww1646-79 courtesy Northwestern University, WWII rationing)

So, many people around here are wondering what to do about the hard times on us. No longer are our jobs secure. An entire generation grew up knowing that their company would be loyal to them and they would be loyal to their company, retiring after 40 years with a party, and a gold watch. Government workers were the most secure, teachers, cops, public works crews. But with recent budget crises, entire police forces are being laid off, teachers are not being hired and suddenly, parks don’t need to be leaf-blown every day. Layoffs in every sector abound and no new jobs are to be had. It’s not hard for people to see the writing on the wall. (Side note: that phrase came from the bible.)

It’s natural to want to stock up. Witness any store before a snowstorm- bread and milk are wiped out within hours. People who have families naturally want to gather supplies to take them through the storm. You want to provide for them in case there is scarcity and want. So what I am going to remind you of is counter intuitive. Don’t stock up for the coming storm. Share all you have. Give sacrificially. Be generous.

“WHAT?!” you say. ‘Even the bible shows Joseph stocking up for the famine to come upon Egypt! He knew what was coming and he prepared!” Well, not really. The Joseph story is not a good example of biblical giving. Read the chapters carefully.

In Genesis 41:46-57; Genesis 42:6; Genesis 47:13-22 Joseph went throughout all the land of Egypt and he took the one-fifth of the grain that the people had grown. (Gen 41:34). Joseph stored it in the cities (because cities are guarded and protected). When the famine came, he sold it back to them. When they ran out of money, he took their livestock, and when they ran out of livestock, he took their land as collateral. He turned all the people of Egypt and a good measure of those around Egypt into serfs.

Actually the bible is rife with stories about how we should give it all away. I am NOT talking about socialism. What I am talking about is that the Lord is counter-intuitive. Everything He asks us to do is counter to how we would act in the natural. Love our enemy. When we’re hit on the cheek, give the other cheek. When asked for a shirt, give the coat, too. Become poor to be rich. Die to live. He said He would take care of us. He said He would take care of us even if the way seems impossible. He said it over and over and over!

Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12:24)

“Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (Job 38:41)

“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.” (Psalm 104:27)

“He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.” (Psalm 147:9)

And Did He not denounce covetousness? “Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:13-17)

In my personal life, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christians are not to stock up but to give sacrificially. A year and a half ago the situation around here was hard but not dire. Recently it has become dire for many of our families in the county. Dozens per week are knocking at the door of the church at all hours asking for food. The County food bank is regularly depleted. The Feed the Kids program is always asking for food so that the little ones at home from school aren’t hungry over the weekend. Don’t save. GIVE! We really have a lot more than we think we do, and we need a lot less than we use.

When you hear people saying “prepare” take that to mean being prayed up, solid on your bible reading, and having walked arm in arm with the Lord. Don’t stray from a close walk with Him and His statutes. Be spiritually prepared. Why? He called us to be salt and light. THIS is what it means to be light to the people who are in the dark, lost and wandering. THIS is what it means to be salt, preserving the word by acting on it. So Christian, prepare! But prepare to be salt and light:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)